Ever pondered about the stuff packed into your top processed foods and their health impacts? Xanthan gum is one such eyebrow-raising ingredient.
But hang on, what’s xanthan gum, and is it fine to munch on? Its safety is a hot potato among health gurus causing quite a stir.
We’re about to take a deep dive into the science surrounding this hot-button ingredient, probing if it’s a villain for your health.
If the possible health downfalls of xanthan gum pique your curiosity, keep reading to get the lowdown!
What Is Xanthan Gum Derived From?
Xanthan gum, at its core, is a polysaccharide – a sophisticated carb composed of many sugar units.
It’s born in a lab, where sugars shake hands with bacteria to trigger fermentation,
The bacteria in question is the Xanthomonas campestris.
These microscopic beings thrive in a sugar-laden culture, think corn syrup, and then they are processed, purified, and dried to produce this powdery form of XG.
As it springs from bacterial fermentation, XG is dubbed a ‘natural’ ingredient.
What Is Xanthan Gum Used for?
Xanthan gum is a handy jack-of-all-trades in many food and non-food items.
In food circles, it shines as a stabilizer and thickener, boosting the texture, moisture hold, and shelf life of assorted processed munchies.
Without xanthan gum, many gluten-free recipes would fall flat, resulting in baked goods that just fall apart. However, the fine print reveals xanthan gum powder isn’t entirely gluten-free.
You can find it in a variety of stuff, from salad dressings, sauces, dairy delights, baked goods to beverages.
In the non-food realm, xanthan gum is a favorite in cosmetics, toothpaste, and pharmaceuticals.
For cosmetics, it holds emulsions and suspensions steady and grants a smooth texture.
In toothpaste, it bulks up the product and stops ingredients from going their separate ways.
Pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, use it to firm up suspensions and amp up the thickness of liquid meds.
All in all, xanthan gum is a star for its knack to create steady and uniform mixes across various industries.
Why Do People Take Xanthan Gum?
Xanthan gum, frequently spotted in our grub, plays the role of a thickener, steadying agent, and emulsifier. By and large, it doesn’t cause trouble for most of us.
Some even pop xanthan and guar gum as dietary supplements to aid digestion and ensure regularity in the bathroom department.
It holds potential health perks, particularly for those grappling with specific digestive woes like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
There’s a whisper of evidence suggesting xanthan gum might offer multiple health boons, including:
Improved digestion: It can bulk up your stool and keep things moving regularly.
Lower cholesterol levels: Some research indicates it could potentially trim down blood cholesterol levels.
Better blood sugar control: Several studies propose that xanthan gum might dial down blood sugar levels, especially for those juggling diabetes or insulin resistance.
Reduced inflammation: It’s been touted for its anti-inflammatory effects, making it a potential ally for those battling conditions like arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.
Increased satiety: Being a soluble fiber, it might stave off hunger pangs, helping keep your weight in check.
While these potential benefits sound exciting, further research is needed to fully understand the health implications of xanthan gum.
Is Xanthan Gum Bad for You?
Is Xanthan gum a safe bet? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is all thumbs up for it, particularly when used sparingly.
Believe it or not, it’s been a trusty food additive for more than a big 5—to—50 years! So, rest easy, there’s no strong evidence pointing to health issues from a moderate intake of xanthan gum.
However, downing large doses may have some folks in a twist, triggering side effects like:
Allergic reactions: Some folks might have an allergic reaction to XG, with symptoms mirroring food allergies, such as itching, hives, and difficulty breathing.
Skin irritation: Direct contact could cause skin irritation or a rash in some individuals.
Headaches: Though rare, xanthan gum consumption might bring on a headache.
May lower blood sugar: Some studies suggest xanthan gum could lower blood sugar levels too much in diabetes or insulin resistance cases, causing hypoglycemia. If you’re on blood sugar-lowering medication, it’s best not to take it regularly.
Not suitable for premature infants: XG isn’t advisable for infants with a history of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), as high consumption could raise their NEC risk.
May interact with certain medications: XG might not play well with certain meds, such as blood thinners and cholesterol-lowering drugs. It’s also not a good idea for those prepping for surgery. If you have safety concerns, consult your doctor.
Should You Avoid Xanthan Gum?
For the average Joe or Jane, having xanthan gum in controlled amounts isn’t going to raise any red flags. But, if you’re prone to reactions from foods loaded with xanthan gum, best to steer clear. Plus, if you notice any digestive upset, skin flare-ups, or other off symptoms, it’s probably wise to pass on it.
Expecting or nursing moms may need to give food additives like xanthan gum a wide berth. Food thickening agents can be a troublemaker for gut conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
If you’re on medications like blood thinners, cholesterol reducers, or diabetes tablets, don’t go nuts on them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is xanthan gum toxic?
XG, okay to eat, gets the thumbs up from numerous food safety groups. Both the U.S. FDA and EU's Food Science Panel endorse moderate xanthan gum use. Even the FAO/WHO food additive experts give it the green light.
What happens if you eat too much xanthan gum?
Eating loads of XG can trigger tummy troubles like bloating and gas, even diarrhea. If you've overdone it, hydrate with lots of water. But hey, if issues persist, better give your doc a call.
Is xanthan gum bad for your liver?
Small XG doses aren't believed to harm your liver. Why? Studies show XG just sails through your system without being absorbed. Your body doesn't process it at all—it's straight out in your waste.
Is xanthan gum bad for your skin?
XG's usually fine on skin but can irk some, causing irritation or allergies. Got sensitive skin or a past with food additive allergies? Best do a patch test with any skincare products packing XG.
Is xanthan gum bad for your hair?
XG's often in hair care items to thicken and gel. Generally, it's all good for hair and scalp use. But heads up—if you're sensitive to XG, you could face scalp irritation or allergies.
Is xanthan gum keto-friendly?
XG is a keto pal! It's a carb, sure, but it doesn't count towards net carbs, your body won't absorb it. Think of it as a 'free pass' in keto cuisine. But remember, moderation is key!